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Japanese children's songs

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Japanese children's songs

Japanese culture has, as most do, many songs that are taught to children. Some of these are nursery rhymes, but some have a cultural background.

In this blog, Murahara sensei reflects on one such song that is particular to hometown of Kagoshima in southern Japan.

Please read this amusing blog, and learn some Japanese vocabulary. Listen to the video to practice some Japanese language listening exercises.

泣こよか ひっ飛べ
Nakoyoka Hittobe




「泣―こかい 飛―ぼかい 泣―こよっか・・・ひっ飛べ!」

これは、薩摩(今の鹿児島)の言葉で、「泣こうか、飛ぼうかと悩むくらいなら、いっそのこと飛んでしまえ! いろいろ考えないで、さっさと実行しろ!」という意味の言葉です。 子どもたちの歌「わらべ歌」として伝えられ、遠い遠い昔から、薩摩の子供たちは何か決断を迫られたとき、この歌を口ずさんで、前に進むか、諦めるかの決断をしたようです。

私たち兄弟はこの言葉を祖母から教わりました。それは1才か2才ぐらいの、とても小さな時からです。歩き始めの、足が短い小さな子供にとって、20㎝ぐらいの段差を一人で降りるのはとても怖いことです。でも、成長するためには、その段差を一人で降りられるようにならなければなりません。怖がって抱っこをせがむ私たちに、祖母は「泣―こかい 飛―ぼかい 泣―こよっか・・・ひっ飛べ!」と歌を歌ってくれ、「ひっ飛べ!」のタイミングで勇気を出して『びょ~ん』と飛び降り、祖母に受け止めてもらうのです。祖母は勇気を出して行動した私たちを褒めてくれます。そんな風に日常の行動を通して、この言葉の本当の教えを学んできました。今では、何か事を始める時いつも私の心に浮かぶ『座右の銘』とも言うべき言葉になっています。

「泣―こよっか ひっ飛べ!」



To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video. 

泣(な)こよか ひっ飛(と)べ

「泣(な)―こかい 飛(と)―ぼかい 泣(な)―こよっか・・・ひっ飛(と)べ!」

これは、薩摩(さつま)(今(いま)の鹿児島(かごしま))の言葉(ことば)で、「泣(な)こうか、飛(と)ぼうかと悩(なや)むくらいなら、いっそのこと飛(と)んでしまえ! いろいろ考(かんが)えないで、さっさと実行(じっこう)しろ!」という意味(いみ)の言葉(ことば)です。 子(こ)どもたちの歌(うた)「わらべ歌(うた)」として伝(つた)えられ、遠(とお)い遠(とお)い昔(むかし)から、薩摩(さつま)の子供(こども)たちは何(なに)か決断(けつだん)を迫(せま)られたとき、この歌(うた)を口(くち)ずさんで、前(まえ)に進(すす)むか、諦(あきら)めるかの決断(けつだん)をしたようです。

私(わたし)たち兄弟(きょうだい)はこの言葉(ことば)を祖母(そぼ)から教(おそ)わりました。それは1才(さい)か2才(さい)ぐらいの、とても小(ちい)さな時(とき)からです。歩(ある)き始(はじ)めの、足(あし)が短(みじか)い小(ちい)さな子(こ)どもにとって、20㎝(センチ)ぐらいの段差(だんさ)を一人(ひとり)で降(お)りるのはとても怖(こわ)いことです。でも、成長(せいちょう)するためには、その段差(だんさ)を一人(ひとり)で降(お)りられるようにならなければなりません。怖(こわ)がって抱(だ)っこをせがむ私(わたし)たちに、祖母(そぼ)は「泣(な)―こかい 飛(と)―ぼかい 泣(な)―こよっか・・・ひっ飛(と)べ!」と歌(うた)を歌(うた)ってくれ、「ひっ飛(と)べ!」のタイミングで勇気(ゆうき)を出(だ)して『びょ~ん』と飛(と)び降(お)り、祖母(そぼ)に受(う)け止(と)めてもらうのです。祖母(そぼ)は勇気(ゆうき)を出(だ)して行動(こうどう)した私(わたし)たちを褒(ほ)めてくれます。そんな風(ふう)に日常(にちじょう)の行動(こうどう)を通(とお)して、この言葉(ことば)の本当(ほんとう)の教(おし)えを学(まな)んできました。今(いま)では、何(なに)か事(こと)を始(はじ)める時(とき)、いつも私(わたし)の心(こころ)に浮(う)かぶ『座右(ざゆう)の銘(めい)』とも言(い)うべき言葉(ことば)になっています。

「泣(な)―こよっか ひっ飛(と)べ!」


Nakokai, Tobokai, Nako Yokka, Hittobe! Have you ever heard these words ?

These are Satsuma (currently Kagoshima) words. The words mean that if you are indecisive about “Should I cry or should I jump”, just stop being indecisive and jump ! “Don't thing too much about things, just do it !” They were passed down in a children's song 'Warabe Uta', and a long long time ago, whenever Satsuma children faced a decision, they would sing this tune, and make a decision on whether to go ahead or to quit something.

Me and my siblings learned these words from our grandmother. It was when we were really young, like one or two years old. When we had just started walking, for small children with short legs, it was scary to climb down from a 20 centimeter step.But in order to grow up, you had to climb down that step sometime on your own. When we were holding on such fears, our Gran would sing to us, “Nakokai, Tobokai, Nako Yokka, Hi! Tobe!” and with the timing of the words “Hi! Tobe!”, we would spring up and jump down, and my grandmother would catch us. And my grandmother would praise us for having the courage to act. And in this way, by doing everyday acts, we the learned the real lesson behind these words. Now, whenever I am starting something this motto always comes up in my mind and I feel these words are something I should say.

“Nako Yokka, Hittobe!” (If it's enough to cry about in regret, then just do it !)

So whenever you cannot understand which way to proceed, or when you need some courage to take some steps forward, please go ahead and try to recite these words.

さっさと~する do it now

決断を 迫られる/けつだんを せまられる face a decision about

口ずさむ/くちずさむ sing a song(tune), hum a song(tune)

教え/おしえ teachings

座右の銘/ざゆうのめい a motto

唱える/となえる chant, recite


Hajimemashite, everyone. My name is Satomi Murahara I live in Kagoshima in Kyushu. An active volcano known as Sakura Jima, is the symbol of the town.

I have been teaching at Japanese language schools in Saipan and Kagoshima. While I was in Saipan, I got to find out about Polynesian dances and now I'm currently learning Tahitian dance. Recently I have become interested in Hula too. One day I'd like to go to Hawaii and Tahiti and dance under the azure sky looking out at the sea.

I love helping everyone to learn Japanese ! So in my class, don't be afraid to make mistakes, just continue to use Japanese. Talk as much as possible and ask me lots of questions. This is the shortcut to improving your language skills. I'm really looking forward to hearing about your experiences and have conversations in Japanese with you !

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  • Tuesday, 03 December 2019

    Congratulations on your job! I´m a senior Brazilian who decided to take up Japanese lessons, so your story will help me and many others. My father and uncle came from Kagoshima a long time ago. I was looking for one of Kagoshima´s symbols to print on T-shirts and I came across lovely Guribu-kun pictures. I want to give the T-shirts to my family 丸田. On Guribu-kun picture I saw the expression "hittobe" and after searching the meaning I found your article! It will help me improve my Japanese for sure. Keep on doing your excellent job! ありがとうございます. Maruta Akio, Petrópolis RJ, Brazil. "Nako yokka, hittobe!"

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